Franklin 29 project showcases shipwright skills

Work has begun on a wooden boat project uniting modern construction and traditional methods and aiming to showcase the enduring appeal and relevance of the shipwright.

In build at The Wooden Boat Centre in Franklin, Tasmania, the vessel, known as the Franklin 29, was designed by Andrew Wolstenhholme from the UK. It will feature a strip-planked hull made from Western Red Cedar, laid decks of Celery Top Pine, Huon pine on the transom and fitout with other Tasmanian native timbers. 

It will cruise at 17 knots powered by a 110 HP low emission diesel engine and have a displacement of a little over four tons. 

Paul D’Olier, Operations Manager at The Wooden Boat Centre is the main proponent of the project.

“The aim is to introduce a world class shipwright training program back into The Wooden Boat Centre,” said Paul. “To do this we had to have a variety of both traditional and modern boat construction within the course and the content also needed to be consistent year on year. Traditional construction components were easy with our small clinker and carvel boats that are a staple for us.

“I proposed a larger modern strip plank production boat (the Franklin 29) to fulfil the main part of the program.”

Students from around Australia will participate in the 12-month course which includes building traditional clinker and carvel planked small boats, and the modern strip planked launch.  

According to Paul and the team at The Wooden Boat Centre, “The Franklin 29 provides a heritage-looking boat that fits our image as a traditional boat builder, featuring a modern finish and low maintenance.

“The unique appeal of this vessel is the blend of traditional looks, modern convenience and beautiful Tasmanian timbers. It’s an excellent platform for the major portion of the new course, as it provides training opportunities in the full gamut of skills.”

Disciplines involved will include modern construction strip plank methods including CNC cut moulds and bulkheads; introduction to modern adhesives and fillers used in strip plank construction; vacuum bag sheathing processes; Dynel deck sheathing; composite bulkhead materials; laid deck installation; interior fit out and mechanical and electrical fit out.

ATL Composites, in conjunction with their local distributors Tasmanian Marine Distributors, have been working closely with The Wooden Boat Centre over the last couple of months, providing recommendations on materials and construction techniques for the Franklin 29 project. 

WEST SYSTEM 105 epoxy and 206 Slow hardener have been specified as the base system and in particular WEST SYSTEM 105 and 207 Special Clear hardener combination will be used for all clear timber finishes on the project. 

The 105/207 combination has an ultraviolet inhibiting additive that will ensure an exceptionally clear, moisture resistant, timber finish and improved UV protection.

The mix of WEST SYSTEM Fillers, each possessing unique handling and performance, that have been recommended to The Wooden Boat Centre to alter the consistency of the WEST SYSTEM resin and hardener, including the 413 Microfibre Blend for structural bonding and scarfing and 411 Microsphere Blend for edge-gluing the timber planks and non-structural filleting and filling, as well as 417 Low Density Filler for the fairing system under the proposed dark blue hull. 

KINETIX R246TX thixotropic laminating resin will be used to extend the working time for laminating the hull and larger areas of the Franklin. Mac Dalton, from ATL,  will be supporting The Wooden Boat Centre with technical advice during this process,  and also offering expert techniques for the construction for smaller parts,  that are intended to be used for some basic training of the students, on vacuum bagging.

ATL Composites has worked closely with The Wooden Boat Centre, providing products, expertise and training for all involved.

“We are honoured to be collaborating with The Wooden Boat Centre on this show-case project for the Australian Wooden Boat Festival,” commented ATL CEO Nicholas Cossich.

“It is hard to believe we have been manufacturing WEST SYSTEM epoxy in Australia for over 40 years, but our passion for wooden boats has never waned in that time. If anything, it is greater than ever, spurred on by projects such as this, new products like H207 clear and the enthusiasm of our many friends in the wooden boat community.”

The wooden boat has earned universal esteem for its part in human history, explained Paul, adding that it deserves to continue to evolve and thrive.

“We live on an island and we as a country would not exist without explorers in wooden ships. But rather than just having museum displays, it is important to preserve our links to history through training craftsmen for the present and the future. There are many historic vessels worldwide that need skilled shipwrights to preserve and restore them.”

Operating for 25 years, the Wooden Boat Centre has acquired an international reputation for its quality teaching and fine vessels. The Centre welcomes more than 22,000 visitors each year, many taking the time to engage through workshop tours and short courses.

The lower workshop at the Centre where the 29-foot vessel is under construction is only metres from the picturesque Huon River; the site of the construction of Tasmania’s most famous Wooden Boat, The May Queen, built in Tasmanian Blue Gum in 1867, and proudly moored at Constitution Dock in Hobart. 

The project is on track for delivery ahead of the 2021

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